Guava Tree: Nutritious Tropical Fruit At Home

Guavas don't have to be a rare treat if you grow your own guava tree! Our complete guide shows you how to get nutritious fruit at home.

Guava tree

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Packed with vitamin C, the fruit of the guava tree is prized for its delicious flavor. These tropical wonders produce nearly four times the vitamin C of oranges, in fact! The leaves are used medicinally and are aromatic when crushed. And the tree’s bark is fascinating, too.

The common guava, sometimes called the yellow guava, may require a search to find in the market. But why go out and search for it when you can grow it yourself? This evergreen tree is surprisingly easy to grow and will produce ample amounts of sweet, luscious fruit.

Include these lovely fruits in your favorite Cuban food with fried plantains, or simply eat them by themselves. Let’s discuss all things about the guava tree today to provide you the most insight on caring for your own lovely guava trees!

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Quick Care Guide

Guava tree
Growing a guava tree will provide you with lots of vitamin C-loaded fruit. Source: aouniat
Common Name(s)Common guava, lemon guava, yellow guava
Scientific NamePsidium guajava
Days to Harvest90-120
LightFull sun
Water:Depends on age; see watering section
SoilWell-draining, organic-rich
Fertilizer6-6-6 balanced fertilizer per below
PestsFruit flies, guava moths, thrips, whiteflies, scale, mealybugs, root-knot nematodes
DiseasesAlgal spot, anthracnose, fungal root rots

About The Guava Tree

Guava leaves
Guava leaves grow in opposing pairs and have very distinct veining. Source: Subash BGK

Whether single or multi-trunked, the guava tree is an easy tree to care for. It can be treated as a large shrub or as a small tree, with a lifespan of 30-40 years. In its native range from southern Mexico into Central America, it can grow as tall as 30 feet in height.

Like many tropical plants, it has fleshy leaves that are evergreen in the right climate. They are aromatic when crushed, and form in pairs opposite one another on the stem. These lovely leaves may be the inspiration for every kid’s drawing of a leaf, with a very distinct vein pattern. Typically the leaves range between 2.75”-6” in length.

The tree’s bark is distinctive as well. Thin and smooth, it flakes off to expose a pale green underneath the copper-brown exterior. Young branches are a bit downy to the touch until their bark fully dries out, almost looking as though they have a light fuzz on their surface.

Five-petaled flowers may appear up to twice a year, depending on the climate. For cooler climates, they will spring into existence in late spring, but in tropical regions may reappear in the fall. These white-petaled flowers have up to 250 stamens clustered together in the center. While they shed their slightly-fragrant petals quickly, the fruit often has remnants of the stamen cluster at its base as it forms.

But where does guava grow? Widely grown in temperate regions, psidium guajava can be found in Asia, the southern United States (especially in Florida), and Australia as well as its native range in Mexico and Central America. 

It’s known as common guava, but may also be called the lemon guava or yellow guava tree. As the fruit’s size is comparable to that of an apple, it may also be called an apple guava tree. But the guava scientific name is Psidium guajava. Various languages around the world have their own names as well, with the Spanish referring to it as guayavo, the Portugese goiaba, and so on.

The fruit can be yellow to light green in color. It may be round, pear-shaped, or oval. Its flesh can be white, pink guava fruit, or red in hue depending on the cultivar. Most of its seeds are hard to chew, although a few rare cultivars may have softer seeds. Flavor-wise, it’s described as a combination of mango, strawberry and pear.

Planting Guava Trees

Unripe guavas
Unripe guavas are firmer than ripe ones and are darker green in color. Source: Starr

How do you get a guava off to the right start? Let’s talk about the best ways to get your guava plant set up for greatness.

Guavas can be planted at virtually any time of year in tropical zones, but do best in the warmer months. Early spring when it’s just starting to warm up is a good time, as it gives the tree time to stretch out its roots underground before hot weather sets in.

If you’ll be growing your guava tree in a container and bringing it indoors for the winter, you can start anytime provided that the conditions are relatively warm. Aim for temperatures that are above 45 degrees, and preferably above 50. As for which container is best, try a 10-gallon Air Pot which we stock in our store.

While you’ll need to make sure your tree has full sun and another tree for pollination purposes, you’ll also need to keep them separate. Guavas should be placed at least 10 meters (33 feet) apart when possible but can be as close as 5 meters if necessary.

Place your guava trees in sunny, well-lit locations as they require full sun. Provide a place that is at least somewhat protected from wind, if possible, whether by fencing or another windbreak. Your small guava tree will need that protection to develop, and older guava trees can be sensitive to cold winds too.

Guavas can be planted as espalier trees on cordons. However, don’t place other plants beneath them, as exudates from their root system tend to kill off weeds or other plants at the tree’s base.

When planting a young tree, you want to dig a hole that’s at least twice the width of the root ball, wider if possible. This allows you to break up any hard soil that might slow early root development. Use the blade of your spade or shovel to loosen the sides of the planting hole as well. You can amend the soil with compost if you wish, but try to avoid large amounts of fertilizer as it can cause burning to young and tender root systems.

Ensure that your soil is well-draining by filling the hole with water and waiting to see how long it takes to drain. If it takes longer than a few minutes, dig down a couple more feet and add perlite or other soil looseners to speed drainage.

Place your tree in at the depth at which it was originally planted. Do not plant it any deeper, as that can be a potential hazard for the trunk. Fill with the original soil, amended with compost if desired. Mulch to a depth of 3”-4” around the tree, making sure to maintain at least a 4”-6” clear space around the trunk itself. 

Guava Care

Guava flowers
Guava flowers have only five petals but a whole lot of stamens bursting from their center. Source: Rusty Clark

Let’s talk about the best way to keep your guava tree growing and producing!

Light & Temperature

Your guava tree is tropical. It needs lots of full sun and warm conditions to truly thrive and produce. If you’re planting it in your yard, you should be in growing zones 9b-11 to ensure its safety during the winter months. People growing them in containers will need to bring them indoors once the weather dips into the 40s but will still need to provide lots of light.

Guava trees require a bare minimum of 6 hours of sun per day but prefer 8-10 hours of sun. They can tolerate heat but perform at their best in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops below 30 degrees, the plant is at risk of severe damage.

Watering & Humidity

While your guava is somewhat drought-tolerant once established, that’s not true when it’s young. Young trees should be watered every other day through their first year of growth, except in the winter months when temperatures are cooler and the tree is dormant. 

Somewhat shallow-rooted, the majority of your guava’s moisture will come from the upper layers of soil. As the upper portion dries out quicker than deeper soil would, providing mulch can help keep moisture from evaporating as quickly. Placing a soaker hose underneath the mulch allows you to water at a slow trickle that won’t harm the root system.

Even older trees may need a slight boost to the watering regimen during fruit production. Check the soil beneath the mulch to see if it’s moist before watering. Usually, once to twice a week is fine for established, mature trees.

Soil

Rich soils with high amounts of organic material are preferred by your guava, but it can grow in a wide range of soil types. Avoid heavy clay soils when possible, as they aren’t conducive to good root development. Good drainage is key, as this tree doesn’t tolerate standing water well.

A pH range of 5-7 is best for these plants.

Fertilizing

For the first year of growth, fertilize monthly with a balanced complete fertilizer during the growing season. Skip fertilizing from November through January as the tree will be dormant. These trees like extra magnesium and iron in their food, so check your fertilizer label to ensure there’s some in there. A 5-5-5 or 6-6-6 slow-release fertilizer is optimal.

To promote good fruit development once pollination has happened, you can raise the level of potassium slightly if you’d like, but it’s just not necessary if you’re consistent with the application.

Once your guava tree is established and past its first year, provide more fertilizer per feeding but cut it back to every other month. A slow-release blend is still preferred, and granular types are ideal. Evenly scatter it across the soil over the root area. You can work it into the surface of the soil if you wish.

Pruning

Guava branch formation
The shape and formation of guava branches is readily apparent in this photo. Source: Vicious Bits

If you are growing your guava in a shrub-like form, you don’t have to prune away the lower sucker shoots. However, most prefer to keep them in tree form, so they don’t spread out of control.

When removing sucker shoots, take them off as close to the base of the tree as possible. Light pruning of the canopy will open it up to more sunlight and airflow. Guava fruit develops on new shoots from mature wood, so be careful not to remove all new growth.

If maintaining a tree to a certain height, do heavy pruning in the late winter every other year to keep it in the desired height range. Try to leave some older wood in place. Be sure to cut above any visible budding points when possible, as that’s where future growth will develop.

A single-trunked tree with at least three or four lateral branches will form a nice, appealing canopy shape. 

Guava tree pruning should also be done to remove damaged or diseased branches as needed. Whenever pruning, use sterilized pruning shears or loppers to prevent disease spread.

Propagation

Guava seeds can remain viable for a long time. Soak your seeds in warm water for at least 24 hours before planting, although you can leave them in the water for up to a week if you need to. Seeds should be planted in moist, warm soil and kept damp throughout germination. This is the most reliable method of propagation if you only have one variety of guava. If you’re growing multiple cultivars, cuttings are best.

Root cuttings are the next option for propagation. At least 2-3 feet from the tree, cut off a section of root that’s at least 5” in length. Place it in warm, damp soil and keep it moist. New shoots should start appearing within 3-4 weeks.

Half-hard cuttings from branches can also be rooted. Remove a ring of bark at the cutting’s base and apply a rooting hormone before planting. These should also be kept moist and warm.

Harvesting and Storing Guavas

Ripe guavas
Ripe guavas are yellow to yellow-green, slightly soft, and aromatic. Source: Hafiz Issadeen

When is guava ripe? Guava fruit ripens in its 2nd-4th year. You should pick your guava fruit when it’s full-sized and has become slightly soft and aromatic. But it can be harvested prior to full ripeness, as it’ll continue to ripen even after it’s harvested. 

If harvesting fruit early, be sure to select guava fruits that are of a good size, leaving small fruit to continue to develop. Most guava fruit lightens in color as it approaches ripeness, so early harvests should be a light green in hue with slightly firmer skin. Place your harvested guavas in a paper bag with an apple or banana, as the ethylene the banana or apple emits will ripen your fruit faster.

When picking, try not to yank on the tree so as not to damage branches. Instead, use a sterilized pair of pruning shears to snip through the wood above the fruits. This protects both your produce and your tree.

Storing

Ripe guava fruit can be refrigerated for 5-7 days. Green fruit can be stored for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator but should be checked regularly to remove fully ripened fruit from the green fruit. Guava fruits are great in Cuban food, with fried plantains, and in empanadas.

To store your fruit for longer periods, scoop out the soft inner flesh of the fruits and compost the rind. The flesh can then be frozen or canned as a jelly or jam. Making guava syrup is also optional. It can be dehydrated as a pulp on a drying sheet and stored that way as well.

Troubleshooting

What problems may you encounter when growing your Psidium guajava? Let’s talk about that.

Growing Problems

Keep lawns back from the root region of your guava trees. While grass is one of the few things that can somehow manage to grow underneath your guava, any damage from lawnmowers or weed whackers to the trunk can put it at risk of disease.

Similarly, if your lawn is even near the root system, be cautious about fertilizing. Lawn fertilizer often has high nitrogen levels, which can cause your tree to produce lots of foliage and little fruit. As the roots often extend out past the tree canopy, limit your lawn fertilizing within proximity of the tree.

Overwatering can cause many issues, root rot being among those. Be sure your soil is well-draining.

For home growers, keep your guava trees at 10’ or shorter when possible. The weight of the fruit combined with any serious wind can make it unstable, and you don’t want it to fall over.

Leaf tip burn or browning has been documented in areas of saline soils, such as those near coastlines. While this typically is not severe enough to cause lasting damage, it’s something to be mindful of.

Pests

Fruit flies are a common pest. In Florida and other parts of the southeast US, this will be the Caribbean fruit fly; in the southwest US it’s the Mexican fruit fly. Harvest before the fruit is fully ripe to prevent the Mexican and Caribbean fruit fly. Pick up any fallen fruit, and make use of fruit fly traps as needed to reduce their numbers.

The guava moth (Argyresthia eugeniella) lays eggs on your tree’s leaves. The larvae tunnel into fruit and chew holes in the leaves. These can be treated with a bacillus thurigiensis (BT) spray. This moth is typical in the southeast US, particularly Florida.

Red-banded thrips will cause browning of fruit rinds and defoliation of your tree. Neem oil and sticky traps can keep these at bay.

The guava whitefly (Metaleurodicus cardini) also feeds on guava leaves. Spraying the tree three times a year with horticultural oil will reduce their numbers.

A number of types of scale insects, including some mealybugs, are fond of guava wood and leaves. Neem oil or horticultural oil can reduce their spread. Small infestations can be treated by hand with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the pests.

Finally, root knot nematodes can be particularly harmful to your guava. Reduce their numbers by applying beneficial nematodes to the soil around the trunk and across the root area.

Diseases

Red alga, also called algal spot or algal leaf spot, is caused by the fungi Cephaleuros virescens. This condition creates purplish-brown spotting on leaves and can, if severe, cause defoliation and lowered fruit production. Treat with a copper-based fungicide.

Another common fungal problem is anthracnose. This can also be controlled and treated with copper fungicidal sprays. Most other leaf spots which appear also are treated with copper.

Finally, fungal root rots can develop in overly-wet conditions. Ensure the soil drains readily to prevent this from occurring. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How big do guava trees get?

A:  In tropical regions, guava trees can grow up to 20 or 30 feet. Most home growers keep theirs at 10 feet or shorter for ease of harvest.

Q: How fast do guava trees grow?

A: Surprisingly fast, all things considered. If you plant from seed, you’ll start harvesting fruit from your guava trees within 2-3 years, with maximum harvests of guava fruits between 4-15 years after planting. That’s significantly shorter than many other fruiting plants!

Q: How long will it take for a guava tree to bear fruit?

A: It takes roughly 3 to 4 years for a guava tree to produce delicious fruit.

Q: Where is the best place to plant a guava tree?

A: Plant guava plants in an area with morning sun, afternoon shade, and rich, moist soil. Also, provide proper spacing between your tree and other plants.

Q: Are guava trees easy to grow?

A: Relatively! If you provide these fruit trees with what they need, they’ll do just fine.

Q: Do you need 2 guava trees?

A: Most of the time, yes. However, pineapple guava – among others – does require a male and female tree for pollination. Sometimes hand pollination is necessary too.

Q: How long does guava tree live?

A: The full life span of a guava tree is about 30 to 40 years.

Q: Are guava roots invasive?

A: Thankfully, no! Plant away.

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